Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Amendment (Governance) Bill 2017

The bill’s main purpose is to seek to amend the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 and other related acts and to establish an independent statutory authority that would be known as the Post Sentence Authority. These matters were previously dealt with by the detention and supervision order division of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria, and it will be responsible for managing the serious sex offenders who are subject to a post‑sentence supervision order or detention order. It is a new model that introduces a multi‑panel agency of representatives of Victoria Police, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and Regulation and non‑government agencies, and it would change the existing systems and processes for prosecuting breaches of post‑sentence detention and supervision orders.

There could not be a more important area for this government to focus on, but as you will hear and have heard already, this government has been very, very slow to move in this area, having in fact to date only implemented seven of the Harper review’s 35 recommendations. This piece of legislation is attempting to implement 14 more recommendations but is leaving 14 important recommendations completely untouched.

The proposed amendments deal with a range of matters, and I commend them to the house. As they go, the lack of representation of victims of crime on this new multi‑agency board is a serious oversight, if that is what it is. To have anybody that deals with these particular offenders that does not have representation of the rights of the victim is certainly legislation that is flawed badly in that respect. As the member for Ferntree Gully said, we are hopeful that it is no more than an oversight and that the government will see the way it has gone wrong on this and address it. We will not hold our breath, but we are hoping that is the case.

It is also surprising to find that this new legislation is going to be subject to the charter of human rights, which is a retrograde step for dealing with people in this situation. It in fact puts them in an elevated position to the victims, which is something that the community has been telling governments for a long time — and certainly the message was heard by the previous coalition government — that is, victims of crime are the important people in this area and the government should be acting to protect their rights and not those of the offender.

The other matter is the qualification for membership of this board. At the moment it requires a senior judge or a retired senior judge to be a part of the existing body, but this legislation cuts that qualification down to five years as a lawyer. Five years as a lawyer barely gains respect within the profession, and to then allow them to sit on a body that is handling something so sensitive and so important as the matter that this board deals with is another flaw in this legislation. We certainly would like the house to take into account the proposed amendments put forward by the member for Box Hill to deal with these inadequacies of this legislation.

There is a reason that some of the recommendations that have been put forward are being implemented today. They were put forward by the Harper review, which was the result of a range of horrendous crimes, not least of which was the murder by Sean Price of Masa Vukotic on 17 March 2015 — an innocent young life tragically lost in one of the most horrific ways. She was a Melbourne teenager in Doncaster, randomly attacked and stabbed to death by a convicted rapist who was out on parole and under supervision orders. Quite rightly the community was outraged at that situation. The government’s response was to commission the Harper review, but as I have already indicated, as have previous speakers, this government has been very, very slow in implementing those recommendations.

Justice Lasry in sentencing Sean Price in March 2016 said at the time that there were many red flags, that leaving this offender out free was very dangerous to the community and involved the likelihood of violence and that there was nowhere near enough done to make sure that nothing of that kind happened. He went on further to say that his release was in fact a catastrophic example of mismanagement. There have been attempts to implement changes, but those changes do not go far enough. The changes the opposition would like to see have been encompassed in the matters I have already spoken about. We have got to ask, on behalf of the community, why the government is so quick to act on the things that affect it and its union friends but not on the matters that are so important to the residents of Victoria.